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Cortland police hosting 8th annual crisis training

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Cortland is hosting its eighth annual Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) school for local and regional law enforcement and first responders.

The week-long CIT training gives officers the skills to successfully work with persons in crisis who have serious emotional needs, mental health conditions, or may be suicidal.

Last year, CPD had over 400 calls for Emotionally Distressed Persons, 95% of which were responded to by an CIT trained officer.

Cortland’s CIT program is led by Lt. David Guerrera of the Cortland Police Department, along with other collaborators from CPD, as well as Seven Valleys Health Coalition, Cortland County Mental Health Department and a wide range of local service providers.

This year’s school was postponed from June to August due to the pandemic which also resulted in the loss of the originally planned location.

More below from Seven Valleys Health Coalition:

One officer who completed the training in 2019 stated on their course evaluation:

“It was great to see all different areas of law enforcement represented and willing to see what we can do as a collective to try and make interactions safer and more productive for all parties that we come into contact with on a daily basis.”

The CIT consists of a group of police officers specially trained to respond to crisis, assess each situation and conduct a mental health intervention for individuals who need emergency care in Cortland County. Every effort is made to preserve the dignity of each individual encountered and provide necessary resources in order to enhance their treatment process.

The 2020 week-long training in August included 18 participants with more than 50% officers from departments in Cortland County as well as a variety of police agencies in Cayuga, Onondaga and Seneca Counties.

Thanks to funding provided by the Betty Hathaway Trust, Family and Children’s Counseling Services Care Compass Network Cohort Program, Cortland Mental Health Association, and Seven Valleys Health Coalition, the 40 hour training will be provided at no cost to Cortland County trainees or their departments.

The trainer for the 2020 CIT school and previous schools is Eric Weaver. Eric is a retired sergeant with the Rochester, NY Police Department, where he served from 1985-2005 as a Mental Health Coordinator, and as a coordinator of the CIT Basic/Advanced School. Eric has served as a consultant in the creation, training, and implementation of similar teams across New York State.

On numerous occasions Eric openly and honestly shares his story and experiences with his audience. He is a National Trainer for the internationally recognized Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid programs, a Consulting and Master instructor for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, and a Suicide Alertness Trainer.

This year’s school was postponed from June to August due to the pandemic which also resulted in the loss of the originally planned location. The Cortland City School District lent their physical space and staff time in helping the coordinators with details including meeting social distancing and other pandemic protocols.

If not for the School District’s willingness to volunteer this help the 2020 school it would have been canceled.

The Cortland Police Department has trained 31 current and 7 former officers in CIT. The benefits of the training are vast. We have: 1. diverted people from needless emergency room visits and incarcerations toward local outpatient services, 2. bridged the gap between law enforcement and the mental health providers in the community, 3. reduced the instances in which force is required to gain compliance through de-escalation techniques and empathy, 4. reduced the number of injuries to officers and the people we serve, and 5. most importantly, instilled public confidence in our police department by treating individuals with dignity, compassion, and respect.

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